Open nephrectomy surgery

At home before surgery

Open nephrectomy surgery uses one incision.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight. Surgery will be canceled if your stomach is not empty.

Before surgery

  • You and family will be taken to the Pre-Operative Care Center.
  • You will be taken to a surgery prep area where you will get ready for surgery. This includes taking a mild laxative to help you from getting bowel problems after surgery.
  • You will wear a hospital gown.
  • You will meet with the medical members of your transplant team, such as the surgeon, nurse and anesthesiologist (doctor who gives the anesthesia).
  • The nurse anesthetist will start an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm.
  • You will receive medicines through the IV to help you relax.
  • You will be taken to the operating room.
  • Your family will be taken to the visitor lounge.
  • The anesthesiologist will give you a general anesthesia to put you to sleep.

During surgery

  • The nurse will place a Foley catheter in your bladder to collect urine while you are asleep.
  • The surgeon will make an incision in your right side. The incision is about six to eight inches long.
  • The surgeon will remove the kidney.
  • The kidney will be taken to the recipient. He or she will be having surgery in the operating room next to yours.
  • The surgeon will stitch your incisions and cover them with Steri-Strips® (thin paper-like strips).
  • The surgery takes about three hours.

After surgery

  • You will be taken to the recovery area.
  • After about two hours you will be taken to your room.
  • Your family will be able to visit with you.

Did you know?

Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to kidney damage. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, Advil®, Motrin® and Aleve®. Avoid regular use of these medicines.

If you have questions about any of your medicines, ask your pharmacist.


  • After surgery you will feel tired. This is your body's reaction to the surgery and the anesthesia.
  • You should start feeling better by the second day after surgery.
  • You will have pain and discomfort around the incision. You will be encouraged to get up in the chair, walk and do deep breathing exercises. You may have pain medicine as you need.
  • You will be asked to cough and take deep breaths often to help keep your lungs clear.
  • You will be up and walking as soon as possible to help your circulation. You will have special stockings (TED®) to wear.
  • You will have a sequential compression device/PlexiPulse® machine to help prevent blood clots. You will have plastic leggings. They are attached to the a small machine that pumps air into air pockets in the wraps. Air is pumped in and then released. This pumping action, repeated during the day or night, helps improve circulation.
  • The nurse will check the dressings over your incision often.
  • The nurse will remove the Foley catheter the day after surgery and the IV when you are drinking enough fluids.
  • You will stay in the hospital for about three to five days.
  • If you are traveling a long distance home by car or plane, talk with your surgeon and kidney transplant coordinator for instructions.

Recovery at home

  • Take pain medicines and stool softeners as instructed.
  • You may drive when you are no longer taking prescription pain medicine.
  • Balance rest with a gradual increase in activity.
  • You may take a shower but do not take a tub bath until after your first follow-up exam.
  • Return to your normal diet.
  • Avoid heavy lifting (anything heavier than 20 pounds) for two weeks after surgery.
  • You should be able to return to your normal activities in about 10 to 14 days.
    • You may have some discomfort and itching at the incision site.
    • Stop any activity that causes pain.
  • Follow your doctor's orders.
  • Call your transplant coordinator if you have any signs of infection:
    • fever
    • chills
    • redness or drainage from your incision.
    • You will receive instructions for your care at home. If you have any questions, call 612-863-5638. 


  • You will need to return to see your surgeon for a follow- up visit one to two weeks after surgery. At this visit the surgeon will look at your incision. If the Steri-Strips have not fallen off on their own, the surgeon will peel them off. If you have no problems, you do not need any other follow-up visits with the surgeon.
  • You are encouraged to have regular and preventive health care appointments with your regular doctor every year. Please tell all of your health care providers that you have donated a kidney.
  • Your transplant coordinator will call you six months, one year and two years after your surgery to get your current weight and blood pressure, and to arrange for a blood draw (a serum creatinine) and a urine test. Please keep your transplant coordinator aware of phone number changes.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Kidney Transplant Information for Recipients and Donors, renal_ahc_93498
Reviewed By: Allina Patient Education experts, including the Transplantation Department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital
First Published: 05/15/2009
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2009

Did you know?

Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to kidney damage. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, Advil®, Motrin® and Aleve®. Avoid regular use of these medicines.

If you have questions about any of your medicines, ask your pharmacist.

It is helpful to have a family member or friend help you for a couple of days when you return from the hospital. If you have small children, you may want to make arrangements for their care for one to two weeks while you recover.